Corporate Communication on Controversial Social Issues and Its Effects on Attitude Change and Attitude Certainty
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Corporations are increasingly communicating about controversial social issues, including gun control, LGBT rights, confederate flag use, and immigration policies. The purpose of this dissertation was to understand how this corporate communication affects society members in two main ways: First, this study investigated how corporate communication on controversial social issues changes individuals’ attitudes toward the controversial social issue. Second, this study investigated how corporate communication on controversial social issues affected how confident individuals were that their attitudes toward the controversial social issue were correct. Additional influencing factors were explored, including the perceived fit between a corporation’s business and the controversial social issue it was advocating for (advocacy fit), the perceived credibility of the corporation (corporate credibility), the amount of agreement other corporations shared with the corporate statement (bandwagon heuristic), and how relevant an issue was to one’s goals, values, and impressions (involvement). A fully crossed 2 (advocacy fit: low, high) x 2 (corporate credibility: low, high) x 2 (bandwagon heuristic: low, high) x 2 (position advocated: for, against) factorial design was used. Participants (N = 677) read a description of a corporation with low or high credibility, a statement from a corporation on a controversial social issue (for/against gun control, for/against transgender rights), and a statement that told participants most corporations were highly favorable (or unfavorable) to the corporation’s statement on the controversial social issue. Findings indicate differences in attitude change and attitude certainty depending on (a) each participant’s degree of involvement with the social issue and (b) how a corporation communicates about the social issue. The fit of an issue mattered for both attitude change and attitude certainty, but only for issues that were relevant to one’s personal goals and personal values. Having a large number of corporations agree with the corporate statement mattered only for attitude change, and only when the issue was relevant to one’s personal goals. Corporate credibility did not have any significant impact on the whether individuals changed their attitudes or became more confident in their attitudes. These findings are discussed, and limitations, practical implications, future research, and concluding remarks are also described.